Fairfield Schools Extend Kindergarten Day To Save Money

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Fairfield school board chair Philip Dwyer and Superintendent David Title discuss the school system's 2013-2014 budget Tuesday night. Photo Credit: Greg Canuel

FAIRFIELD, Conn. – Fairfield will switch to a full-day kindergarten schedule in the 2013-2014 school year. But the rest of Fairfield’s education programs were unchanged after the school board’s annual budget vote Tuesday night.

Superintendent David Title’s proposed budget called for an increase of more than $7.2 million over the current year, or 4.86 percent. Most of the new funding was tied to rising employee health care costs, meaning the school board would need to cut programs to bring down that amount, Title told the school board earlier this month.

The Board of Education trimmed its request by about $342,000 Tuesday night. The board will ask the rest of the town’s government for $155,829,234 in funding, an increase of about 4.6 percent compared to the current year.

The largest change came from the switch to full-day kindergarten for all students. Because the town will no longer need to run buses at mid-day for kindergarteners, it expects to save about $157,000 each year by making the change.

“I think it is educationally beneficial and it is clearly what people want,” Title said about extending the kindergarten school day. “And it has the added benefit of saving us $157,000.”

The other changes came from asking the food service program to cover its own pension costs and raising fees for renting out school buildings, which combined will save about $60,000. The board also decided not to replace some computer monitors to save about $70,000.

The school board also trimmed the amount each middle and elementary school gets by 5.5 percent. Principals use that money at their discretion to pay for supplies, books, field trips and other costs.

During hearings last week Board of Education members suggested larger changes to the budget. Ideas included reducing world language and music classes at elementary schools, instituting a “pay-to-play” system for sports teams or eliminating some central administration positions.

“This town is facing a 7 percent tax increase if our budget and the town’s budget is approved in the whole,” vice-chair Pamela Iacono said Tuesday. “We need to start to look at some of the things to step back on in an effort to get the rest of the budget approved.”

Other board members suggested waiting for the rest of the town government to reduce their funding before changing programs or staffing. Board member John Convertito also noted that the district plans to renegotiate its health care contract this spring, which could save the town money.

“To make cuts to programming and services that we provide, that’s premature at this time,” Convertito said. “By the time this budget process rolls through the town boards, we’ll know where we stand and have a better place to start from.”

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